Cusco & The Unforgettable 5 Days Salkantay Trek To Machu Picchu

Salkantay  Trek Background Story 

Hey before you get to know how I came to Peru there is a background story.

Machu Picchu Ruins

I have this amazing friend named Boyang whom I’ve known since we were 7 years old. We kind of lost sight of each other during middle school, because Bo was moving to Shanghai. Somehow 4 or 5 years ago he found me on facebook again and we started to get back into those good old days.

Anyway, I asked him last year if he would like to join me sometime in South America. And this cool chap agreed and flew over to South America to backpack 6 weeks on a whole new continent without any Spanish with me. And believe me traveling LATAM without Spanish is like playing soccer without a ball. Bo, if you read this- You got my respect! 

So I decided to meet up with him in Cusco after exploring Lima for three days.


I can give you some advice for Lima:  Do a free walking tour to get the basic information about the Peruvian culture while walking downtown. Spend a day on the coast in Miraflores. Get out at night to the bohemian district of Barranco, enjoy the ice cream and street art. I think 2 or 3 days is enough for Lima.

Watching sunset in Lima
Lima between Miraflores and Barranco

I spent a whole day walking with my friend Nele in the two neighbourhoods of Miraflores and Barranco which was great and sufficient for the capital if you’re short on time.

Cusco and Rainbow Mountain

I came to Peru and was obsessed with the idea of trekking as much as I or we could.

cusco cityview
A city view of Cusco

Thrilled about trekking, which is one of my absolute favorite hobbies (I do care very much about my fitness), we decided to do the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. The Inca trail is way too expensive for a low budget traveler like me. I remember the Inca Trail 10 years ago was just a few euros. Nowadays you have to register 6 months ahead, it’s mandatory to trek with a guide and you’re paying an amount of money I could travel for months in South America.

Red Valley Peru
Red Valley close to Rainbow Mountain

To acclimatize a little bit after one day in Cusco, we decided to trek Rainbow Mountain on the second day and start Salkantay Trek on the third day. On the first day we tried cuy (guinea pig), one of the delicacies in Peru. Which is maybe like lobster or turkey for western people. I can also recommend you to do a Free Walking Tour in Cusco. And if you decide to do the same itinerary like us, get some deep sleep for the exciting week.


Rainbow Mountain was the perfect start. You can book it with any agencies and you shouldn’t pay more than 70 or 80 Soles. They will pick you up early in the morning and the trek is kind of an easy hike and takes a full day. The altitude of Vinicunca (the Peruvian name) is 5200 metres. So make sure you walk in a steady and slow pace when hiking Vinicunca. I enjoyed it (like always) and it was a good start to prepare myself for the Salkantay Trek.

Somewhere at Vinicunca

Overview of Salkantay Trek

We trek with Machu Picchu Reservations and we didn’t regret for one second our decision. Usually you pay for 5 days/4 nights 250 US dollars. Included is your guide, accommodation (actually camping tents), food and the entrance fee to Machu Picchu. Make sure to use your student ID to get a discount if you own one.

Salkantay Trek Day One
Salkantay Trek Day One – Humantay Lake

Day One: 6 KM (5 hours) from Cusco to the breathtaking Humantay Lake.

Day Two: 22KM (9 Hours) For many people this is the most arduous part of the trek because you will be at the highest point of the Salkantay Mountain (4630m / 15190ft) but for me it was the best part (except for Machu Picchu, of course).

Salkantay Trek
Salkantay Trek Day Two – reaching the highest point with the Salkantay Family

Day Three: 16-20 KM (5/6 hours) Don’t worry, it’s just going downhill and is pretty easy. So enjoy the landscape more.

Salkantay trek friends
Our face paintings made us to serious warriors on Day 3

Day Four: 19 KM (6 hours) Up and down and up and down. At the end we had the option to go to the hot springs, don’t skip this splendid part!

Salkantay trek group
Oscaritos helping each together

Day Five: 4 Km It’s time for Machu Picchu. Wake up at 4ish am and get ready to conquer Machu Picchu and to climb 2000 very steep stairs. I promise the trek is worth every part once you get to see this beautiful world wonder.

Swing in peru
Salkantay Trek Day Four

Salkantay Family

A place is sometimes only as good as its people. I would maybe claim the Salkantay Trek as one of my top 3 treks in life so far. We were a group of 12 people. And it might be the magic of Salkantay or maybe I am just lucky, but all of us got along splendidly. So much so that I invited all of them to visit me in Bali at my home. I never had such a wild mixture in a group in which everyone understands each other and fits together magically. Especially since all of us have strong and very specific character traits.

Salkantay Trek
Salkantay Trek Day Two – Highest Point and Salkantay Lake

It was one of the best highlights of my entire South American trip. And if I would have the chance I would definitely do it again.

Machu Picchu

Now I understand why so many people make a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. I can’t find the right words to describe this amazing world wonder above the sky. Maybe it’s just because I was out of breath after waking up at 4 am to climb 2000 steep stairs while surpassing every other person on my way.

Salkantay Trek
Our Final Day at Machu Picchu

My friends Sarah, Martin and I were on 12th of May the first ones standing on Machu Picchu.

Landscape in Machu Picchu
Landscape in Machu Picchu with an active observant

And guess what? I nearly got kicked out because I was jumping for joy at the top and the guard saw me and wanted to take my passport. So if I learned something from Machu Picchu, it’s that you don’t mess around with the guards, because they know how to kick people’s ass.

Llama Machu Picchu

But nonetheless, I felt only great energy from Machu Picchu and it is truly something you should do before you die.

Salkantay Trek
Me at Salkantay Mountain

Hopefully with all those stories I could somehow inspire you to do the salkantay trek and to travel once to Peru. If you have a different experience and didn’t enjoy it so much, then send me a message, but I doubt that’s even possible. Have fun, guys!

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